SIDMAN - Huntingdon's dream of another upset in the District 5-6 Class AA high school football playoffs and a spot in the championship game seemed to be on the verge of coming true.
Too bad Nick Dudukovich had to wake the Bearcats up.
Dudukovich rushed for 191 of his 281 yards in the second half, as second-seeded Forest Hills, up by just six points midway through the third quarter, held off sixth-seeded Huntingdon and pulled away, 25-7, Saturday night at G.H. Miller Stadium.
Forest Hills (11-1) set up a rematch with Tyrone in the district finals Friday night at Mansion Park. Huntingdon closed the book on a 7-5 campaign.
For awhile, though, it looked like the Bearcats, who had knocked off third seed Chestnut Ridge in the quarterfinals, might be able to upend another higher seed. After a rough early start in which Forest Hills scored on a long pass in the first two minutes and picked off Bearcat quarterback John O'Korn's first pass, Huntingdon had settled down, narrowly missing a scoring chance of its own late in the first half before getting on the board on Dylan Gutshall's 4-yard run at 5:02 of the third period to slice the Rangers' lead to 13-7.
Dudokovich, however, had runs of 25 and 46 yards on Forest Hills' ensuing possession to set up Justin Gdula's 1-yard touchdown plunge. Then, after Adam Helsel's second interception put the Rangers in business at midfield, Dudukovich bolted to the Huntingdon 2, from where he scored his second TD of the game with 6:20 to play.
"That hurt. Momentum was starting to change a little bit,'' Zauzig said of Dudukovich's second long run after the Bearcat touchdown. "The run by Dudukovich was big.''
Dudukovich, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior with a deceptive burst of speed, also had a 44-yard touchdown jaunt in the second quarter and a 54-yard run earlier in the third. He carried the ball 26 times.
"We depend an awful lot on Nick, and Nick's delivered now for three years,'' Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said. "Nick's a big game player, and he plays hard. Give credit to our offensive line and our backs who are blocking for him.''
While Dudukovich said there were no halftime adjustments to the Ranger running game, his long touchdown run and the 46-yarder that turned things around in the third quarter came on the same play call over the left side of the line.
"The tight end [Bobby Clifford] blocked down. Our right guard [John Ohler] pulled over and took out the linebacker. It worked out real good. Jeff Meier [the fullback] had a good block, too,'' Dudukovich said.
Forest Hills struck quickly to start the game, Gdula finding Jared McCombie on a pump-and-go route down the home sideline for a 61-yard touchdown. Helsel then picked off O'Korn.
At that point, though, the Bearcats regrouped. They forced a 32-yard field goal attempt, which was wide, after the interception, then began to slowly get the offense in gear. Zauzig said he'd stressed to his team leading up to the game not to lose its poise should it fall behind early.
"We fell behind Bellefonte a couple of times by a couple of touchdowns and were able to come back in that game. That second quarter was key to us that we could do it again, that we could move the ball,'' Zauzig said. "We were telling them you do have some game-breakers out there. Just be patient.''
In the last couple of minutes of the second quarter, it looked like the Bearcats were about to make it a one score game, driving from their own 35 to the Ranger 11. However, all four O'Korn passes were incomplete in the last 50 seconds of the half, enabling Forest Hills to maintain a 13-0 lead at halftime.
Jared McCombie broke up one attempt to 6-4 Bearcat wideout Jeremy Posey, who led both teams with six receptions for 78 yards. A big hit separated Matt Bennett from the ball on another that might have gotten Huntingdon a first down.
"I thought we could lob the ball to Posey. The execution just wasn't there when we needed it,'' Zauzig said.
Huntingdon will graduate 16 seniors, including star linebackers Alex Miller and Sean Houck.
"We've had some good linebackers over the years, but that's as good of a tandem of linebackers that we've had,'' Zauzig said. "There's some young guys coming back who can take their game to another level.''
Forest Hills will try to defend its district title, but this time Tyrone is the No. 1 seed.
"We're playing a very formidable opponent in Tyrone. They've got a great program. We've sort of had a rivalry with them for a long time,'' Bailey said. "We know we'll be playing a quality team with a quality coaching staff. We just hope we're up to the task.''
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntingdon0 0 7 0 - 7
Forest Hills7 6 6 6 - 25
FH-McCombie 61 pass from Gdula (George kick),10:32.
FH-Dudukovich 44 run (kick failed), 5:57.
H-D. Gutshall 4 run (Gibboney kick), 5:02.
FH-Gdula 1 run (run failed), 1:03.
FH-Dudukovich 2 run (run failed), 6:20.
RUSHING: Huntingdon-Marter 11-40, H. Riley 5-23, D. Gutshall 6-10, O'Korn 2-6,Bell 1-(-1). Forest Hills-Dudukovich 26-281, Meier 7-26, Dell 3-20, Gdula 4-0, TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING: Huntingdon-O'Korn 12-28-3-141, Marter 0-1-0-0. Forest Hills-Gdula 7-13-0-133.
RECEIVING: Huntingdon-Posey 6-78, Bennett 2-30, D. Gutshall 2-18, Marter 1-18, H. Riley 1-(-3). Forest Hills-Helsel 4-71, McCombie 2-68, Dudukovich 1-(-6).
INTERCEPTIONS:Forest Hills-Helsel 2, Snedden.